END MARKETING STRUGGLES

Murang'a directors back return of Tea Board of Kenya

Say it will help improve farmers’ returns by spearheading the marketing of the cash crop

In Summary

• The board was scrapped in 2014 and the sector put under the tea directorate.

• The directors say the board will help market tea internationally.


Farmers picking tea in Kangaita village
CASH CROP: Farmers picking tea in Kangaita village
Image: /FILE

Some directors of tea factories in Murang’a county have praised the restoration of the Tea Board of Kenya by the Ministry of Trade.

The directors said though they have issues with sections of the Crops (Tea Industry) Regulations 2020, they support the reinstatement of the board.  They said it will help improve farmers’ returns by spearheading the marketing of tea.

The regulations are aimed at boosting transparency in the tea sector and giving farmers good returns.

 

The directors said they have been struggling to source for markets internationally since the board was scrapped by the government in 2014.

Makomboki Tea Factory chairman Erastus Gakuya said the board sought markets in foreign countries which eased the value chain of the commodity.

Gakuya said the new board should operate autonomously and not be attached to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA).

“For five years, we have been struggling to market our tea which has affected the returns reaching farmers,” he said.

The chairman also noted that the sector has been relying on the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) to market the commodity, a responsibility of the board.

He said efforts to market tea have been especially hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The last time we were at the Mombasa auction, only about 20 per cent of the buyers showed up. This dampens competition and reduces prices,” he said.

 

Solomon Kagema, a director at Gacharage Tea Factory, urged Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina to ensure sufficient consultations are done before the regulations are finalised.

Kagema said some proposals raised in the regulations are impractical and may derail the sector.

Kigumo MP Wangari Mwaniki praised Agriculture CS Peter Munya for coming up with regulations to control the sector.

“The tea sector is complicated and requires a regulator to control all the players and particularly protect farmers’ interests,” she said.

She said the regulations also protect Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) – the umbrella body that manages small-scale farmers.

They will however compel KTDA to be more efficient and prudent while handling farmers’ resources, MP Wangari said.

“I'm glad that there is a clause that ensures farmers’ voices are heard in the governance and management of the sector,” the MP told the Star.

The fees that were previously charged to tea factories in the Mombasa auction will also be shared with the buyer.

The tea factories’ directors had in April written to Parliament registering their opposition to some clauses in the proposed law.

The draft law also seeks to reduce the number of factory directors to lessen farmers’ burden and ensure tea exportation is done through the auction.

Munya had previously indicated that Chai Trading, a subsidiary company of KTDA that is registered as an export agent, has warehouses abroad yet farmers do not get to know how much their tea costs.

It also proposes the election of directors under one person, one vote principle as opposed to the current system where a vote depends on the number of tea bushes a farmer owns.

Edited by A.N